The product team's ultimate guide to great product launches

Blake Thorne
|
June 14, 2022

In many ways, launching a new software product is like releasing a new movie. Like movie studios, product companies also spend lots of time designing and building a unique offering. And yet, once the product launches, sometimes it fails to create a buzz among its target audience.

One reason is that the team didn’t include the new features customers expected. Or they were missing user-friendly product release notes to prepare users for the new offering.

A third reason is that product marketing teams didn’t prepare a robust post-launch strategy. As a result, the organization failed to drive sustained momentum after launch, impacting user adoption and increasing user engagement.

So how can your organization avoid these common mistakes and ensure a successful product launch?

This guide will show you how.

This comprehensive, action-packed resource will explore tips and advice from experts who have successfully launched software products. We'll cover everything from market research to customer feedback, so you can put your best foot forward when launching your software product.

Let's get started!

What is a product launch plan?

Planning is critical to success, whether you’re introducing a completely new product or simply introducing product changes. A robust product launch plan is essential to develop your product, launch it smoothly, and achieve your goals.

The plan systematically lays out everything that needs to be done to bring a new product to market. While there’s no “universal” template to create a product launch plan, great plans generally include all of the following elements:

  • Launch date and milestones
  • Target audience
  • SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound) business goals
  • Marketing strategy
  • Product positioning strategy
  • Value proposition (and how it stands out from the competition)
  • Product mission
  • Audience pain points
  • Brand design and messaging
  • Success metrics or KPIs
  • Sales goals
  • Customer support plan
  • Testing plan
  • Post-launch strategy to announce product changes and retain customers

Your product launch plan should visually represent all the tasks you need to complete to launch a new product into your target market.

Why should you plan your product launch (and plan it Well)?

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Benjamin Franklin

Here’s why you should plan your product launch before starting design, execution, or testing.

To identify and articulate your goals

Are you creating a new product in an existing software category? Or aiming to create a new software category? Either way, a good plan is essential to identify the various tasks and activities you must complete to reach your end goal, whether it is to:

  • Raise awareness
  • Increase sales, subscriptions, or revenue
  • Get more positive reviews and testimonials
  • Increase conversions
  • Increase user engagement and customer satisfaction

Knowing the ultimate goal can help the entire team focus their efforts, understand expectations, and give it their best shot during execution.

To meet your users’ requirements or goals

Consider your target audience. Regardless of whether your target audience is a business or individual users, or existing customers or new customers, think about their primary goal that your software can help them meet:

  • Save time or money
  • Improve productivity or efficiency
  • Streamline workflows or processes
  • Automate manual tasks
  • Solve an ongoing problem affecting their performance, profitability, or competitiveness

Your plan will help you understand what you need to do for product design, functionality, and messaging to meet users’ requirements and get their attention.

To ensure alignment and improve collaboration between teams

A plan will ensure that all the various teams involved in the launch are aligned around the tasks to be completed, sequence, timelines, and any standards or benchmarks defined for them.

The plan should be shared with all stakeholders and stored in a central location so they can see what they need to do and stay updated on any changes. Your plan is the holy grail of your communication and collaboration strategy – so make sure you get it right!

To design the positioning strategy

With a plan, you can systematically design the new product’s positioning strategy to appeal to your target audience. You can also figure out how much market or competitor research is needed before starting product design and development.

To clarify and design release communications

A detailed launch plan can also help you create product release notes to raise user awareness. It can help your product operations team develop communications that are:

  • Easy to understand
  • Able to communicate “what’s in it for me” to end-users
  • Light on technical jargon and complex vocabulary
  • Organized, well-structured, and visually rich

Who should be included in product launch planning?

It’s almost always a good idea to involve multiple parties in the launch planning process. Broad involvement will ensure that everyone is aligned on various tactics, strategies, and expectations of the product development process.

The obvious participants are design, product management, product ops, project management, software development, and testing teams. Who else should you include in planning?

Let’s take a look!

C-suite and management

Top leadership sets the organization’s overall strategic vision, mission, and business model. Every product launch should tie into this mission and vision, enabling the company to achieve its business and financial goals.

That’s why it’s essential to involve the c-suite and senior managers in launch planning. Get their inputs on the broader aspects of your plan, such as identifying the target audience, confirming the product-market fit, and clarifying its brand positioning.

Make sure you provide them with regular updates on whether the execution is proceeding according to plan and if their support is required.

Sales and marketing teams

Your sales and marketing teams play a crucial role in designing messaging. Their job is to ensure the product sells with promotional campaigns and communicate its value proposition to end-users.

For all these reasons, it’s crucial to involve them in product planning. Their involvement will enable them to understand the target market, create buyer personas, and articulate the product’s unique selling proposition. They will also be able to create a compelling brand story that creates buzz around your product to drive early adoption.

Customer success and customer support teams

After your product is out in the market, your users may have complaints, suggestions, or feedback. Here’s where your customer support and success teams come in.

Customer support personnel should be prepared to answer customer queries. When customer support teams are equipped with resources, they can help users get comfortable with the product and gain the most value.

But first, they should know who these users are and what kind of “language” to use with them. It’s also critical to follow up with users once their complaints and feedback have been addressed. To establish consistent baselines and standards in these areas, it’s crucial to involve customer support teams during the planning phase.

Best practices to ensure a successful software product launch

Here are some high-level best practices to keep in mind to ensure that your hard work is amply rewarded!

Plan, plan, plan

Before executing your project, create a detailed plan as early as possible. If you already know your targeted launch date, start planning. If you don’t, start planning anyway! Make sure it outlines a complete overview of all elements of the final product, including its features, timelines, budget, resources, positioning strategy, and development milestones.

Your plan may vary depending on the launch type:

  • Soft launch: To test a work-in-progress product with a small set of real users before the final big-bang launch
  • Feature-based launch: Release new features in an existing product to provide unique benefits to existing customers or to attract new customers
  • Full launch: Release an entirely new product from scratch

Determine user groups

The right user groups can help you create an amazing product and deliver a standout customer experience. Make an effort to determine your user groups and leverage them to:

  • Better understand end users’ needs
  • Guide user conversations and communicate your product’s unique value proposition
  • Test features and positioning with real customers
  • Get product feedback
  • Get advice on potential product improvements and new features
  • Find enthusiastic product advocates and evangelists

User groups can also support your customers and help them succeed – just like your customer success and support teams. They can be a valuable component of your launch strategy – so don’t skip this step!

Conduct user research and align development goals with users

To identify your target audience and ensure that your product matches their needs, conduct market and user research.

Ask yourself:

  • What problem are you solving with your product?
  • What features do your target users want?
  • What is your unique value proposition?

Also, understand how your current and potential customers view similar or competing products. Create buyer personas for your target segment (or sub-segments). All this knowledge will guide your development goals and strategy, brand positioning strategy, marketing plan, and post-launch notification strategy.

Build your product ops team

A dedicated product ops team can help streamline your product development process to ensure a smooth launch. By straddling product development/management and operations, this team can minimize process friction, mitigate risks, eliminate data siloes, and improve collaboration among cross-functional teams.

Product ops can also help with:

  • Tech stack management
  • Product quality assurance
  • Market and user research
  • User training and onboarding
  • Product documentation
  • Go-to-market strategy development
  • Feedback loops

Don’t underestimate the value of this team. For a large or complex product launch, the product ops team can take a lot of pressure off the product management and customer success teams.

Provide adoption support and training to users

No matter how fantastic your product is or how unique its features are, your target audience won’t care about them if they don’t know about them. That’s why you need to communicate information about the product to users in a way they understand and appreciate.

Here are some types of training collateral you should consider creating for your audience:

  • FAQs
  • User guides
  • Datasheets
  • Landing pages
  • How-to videos

To keep them continually engaged with your product, you should also provide adoption support in the form of email, social media channels, or live chat.

Think early about change communications for all user groups

After launching your product, you will probably update its existing functionalities or add new features based on user feedback. A change management strategy helps you manage, track, prioritize, and execute change requests. When the changes are implemented, communicate them to users, so they know you are listening.

Start thinking early on about how you will do this to minimize friction for users and ensure that product adoption is not negatively impacted. Involve the product ops team and leverage an automated tool like LaunchNotes to simplify the change communications process. 

A useful product launch checklist

While every product is different, the below checklist will help you streamline and simplify your planning and development efforts.

Identify and document key development milestones in the plan

If your product launch goals are SMART, you won’t have any problems identifying key development milestones and adding them to your launch plan. Be very specific about each milestone’s activities, expectations, resources, and timelines to ensure that all teams are on the same page at all times.

Determine product positioning and key messaging

Your product’s positioning and messaging strategy are critical to establishing a connection with the target audience and convincing them to enthusiastically adopt your product. 

The marketing, customer success, product ops, product management, and design teams should work together to articulate this strategy. Then make sure the strategy is correctly executed during and after launch.

Determine and set product pricing

Pricing is a complex issue that can affect your product sales and company revenues. Consider the value your product provides. Is it unique? Does it address a pain point for a specific set of users? Are these users price-conscious or feature-conscious? Consider all these questions before setting prices. 

Perform market, competitor, and user research to guide your efforts. Determine if you will offer subscription-based or pay-as-you-go pricing (ideal for SaaS products), ask for one-time payments (best for on-premises products and perpetual licenses), or charge based on features used (freemium model).

Determine launch KPIs

Here are some KPIs you can set and track to measure your product’s performance and success:

  • Monthly recurring revenue (MRR)
  • Average revenue per user (ARPU)
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Daily active users or monthly active users
  • Session duration (total time users spend on your product)
  • Number of user actions per session (indicates user engagement) 
  • Customer retention rate (CRR)
  • Customer churn rate
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

You can also set metrics to measure your product’s market share and customer feedback.

Address regulatory and compliance requirements

Before launching a new product, make sure it satisfies all relevant regulatory and compliance regulations. Also, prepare a customer-facing legal agreement and provide this as part of the product documentation.

Design a communications strategy

We have touched upon product communications and release notes throughout this guide. Your communications strategy and development strategy should go hand in hand. And you should think about both – right from the planning phase.

Consider things like:

  • Should we create a feature page?
  • How many user groups do we need, and should we modify our communications strategy for each?
  • What kind of messaging should we design for our target audience?
  • How should we deliver this messaging: through blogs, email, social media, or user guides?

You can choose more than one channel for your release communications. Just make sure that all of them are focused on the user. Make them easy to read and understand, minimize the technical jargon, deliver value, not complexity, and provide a way to ask questions or provide feedback.

Prepare product documentation and release notes

Once you have defined the communications strategy, it’s just a matter of executing it to prepare product documentation. 

If your organization’s key strength is creating amazing software products but not creating their communications, fret not. LaunchNotes can help you simplify the process of creating release notes and change notifications for your products.

How LaunchNotes can help you streamline product launch communications

LaunchNotes provides an automated, user-friendly platform with numerous built-in tools for managing customer feedback, creating and updating changelogs, publishing product updates, and even designing product roadmaps.

With LaunchNotes, your developers can easily communicate information about products and product changes to both internal and external users. The platform makes it easy to centralize all communications in one channel. You can send hyper-targeted product notifications to get user buy-in and boost product adoption. 

To try LaunchNotes, schedule a demo.

Take LaunchNotes for a spin

Struggling to keep your teams in sync ahead of big releases? Spending half your day answering the same questions about what's shipping when? Hearing about new features from your users? LaunchNotes can help.

Begin a free 7-day trial today to see why companies like Atlassian, Loom, and Twilio trust LaunchNotes to keep their teams aligned with upcoming releases and their users ahead of product change.